Florence Jamieson, who has died aged 94, was a free thinker and lifelong pacifist, who eschewed convention in order to live life on her own terms. An acclaimed artist, she was, in fact, one of the Glasgow Girls – a group of celebrated painters who knew each other and whose work is recognised as having made a major contribution to art.
Despite many official plaudits, including membership of the Royal Scottish Society of Painters in Water Colours (RSW), Florence chose to live her live her life outwith the rarified atmosphere of artistic academia.
Born in Glasgow to a medical family with farming roots, she was evacuated to Morar in Lochaber during the Second World War where she attended high school for a few years before becoming head girl of a progressive girls’ school in Galashiels. To those of us who knew her, it seems fitting that Florence was one of the girls who inspired Ronald Searle’s mischievous cartoons and the subsequent films of anarchic education in action. (the actual school was St Trinnean’s, the fictionalised version was St Trinian’s).
Florence was a clear speaker, something that she attributed to having attended elocution lessons in the company of comedic actor Stanley Baxter. Like Baxter she maintained a love of her native Glaswegian tongue. A straight talker, her clearly enunciated tones added impact when she said things as she saw them.
It is her prolific, creative output that is to be her legacy. As a young adult Florence attended evening classes at Glasgow School of Art. She did not study art full-time, opting instead to pursue a diploma in social studies. At the art class, she met Robert Sinclair Thomson who was her tutor and ten years her senior. A love affair began and the couple went on to marry and to have a daughter, Rebecca Thomson, who survives both her parents.
For the duration of their partnership, the glamourous couple made a major impact on the Scottish art scene.
They set up a commercial pottery studio in their Glasgow home; the first of its kind in Scotland and now referred to as Clouston Street Pottery. From there they produced a wide range of ceramic goods, many of which are now collectors’ items.
When the marriage ended in 1962, Florence worked as a psychiatric social worker in order to support herself and her child. She was a single parent at a time when such families were not common outside of widowhood. Florence loved working in the Royal Edinburgh Hospital but art continued to be her fascination and her preoccupation throughout her long life.
Florence’s paintings and drawings reflect a love of nature and her concern with really looking at the world and seeing it. Aged 11, she was examining paintings on the wall of the dining room at Jordanhill College in Glasgow when she had an epiphany. She wrote about it later in life saying: “The revelation was this instant switch from seeing this painting from its subject matter to sudden awareness of the paint within its own right.”
She found inspiration in the things she saw around her, painting still lives, landscapes and detailed observations of natural items such as shells, wood and stones using mixed media.
Her paintings succeed in having a life of their own. They appear to distill the image in question down to a simplistic, almost childlike form, which is then complexly conceived in thick layers of often vibrantly-coloured paint. All the pieces command more than a second glance. Each seems to constantly reinvent itself over a series of viewings, so you can gaze at them mesmerised as you might gaze at a restless sea.
On retiral from social work Florence moved to rural Dunblane, then returned to her native Glasgow, before going on to live on the Isle of Cumbrae and then Ullapool. She continued to exhibit and sell up until 2017. In October this year, in a solid vote of confidence in her work, the prestigious Gallerie Herold of Hamburg, Germany, which has very strong personal connections with Badentarbet, near Ullapool, purchased 31 works, mainly unseen drawings.
Several works will be exhibited this Christmas on the luxury island of Sylt (known as the Hamptons of Germany). The gallery also plans to exhibit her work in Edinburgh and Florence was delighted by this sale remarking: “I’m all shooken up.”
Her work is represented in various public collections including Kelvingrove Art Gallery in Glasgow, the Glasgow University Hunterian Art Gallery, The Scottish Arts Council Collection, Gracefield Arts Centre in Dumfries, and the Scottish Fisheries Museum in Anstruther.
As a woman Florence had a luminescent beauty which did not fade with the passing years and she inspired great friendship and, indeed, admiration. She loved music and dance and swam up to the age of 89.
The last few years of her life were spent at a grand country house, Meallmore Lodge care home near Inverness, which afforded her a view of her beloved trees.